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Ghostbusters (1984)

tomatometer

96

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 55
Fresh: 53 | Rotten: 2

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.

67

Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 2

An infectiously fun blend of special effects and comedy, with Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan performance leading a cast of great comic turns.

audience

87

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 1,026,118

My Rating

Movie Info

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson star as a quartet of Manhattan-based "paranormal investigators". When their government grants run out, the former three go into business as The Ghostbusters, later hiring Hudson on. Armed with electronic paraphernalia, the team is spectacularly successful, ridding The Big Apple of dozens of ghoulies, ghosties and long-legged beasties. Tight-lipped bureaucrat William Atherton regards the Ghostbusters as a bunch of charlatans, but is forced

Jun 29, 1999

Columbia Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (55) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (53) | Rotten (2) | DVD (32)

Whoever thought of having evil's final manifestation take the form of a 100-ft. marshmallow deserves the rational mind's eternal gratitude.

October 5, 2008 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comment (1)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Only intermittently impressive.

May 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety | Comments (19)
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Essentially a $30 million version of Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy but not at all a bad time, thanks mainly to Bill Murray's incredibly dry line readings and director Ivan Reitman's maintenance of a moderately coherent tone and plotline.

May 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (2)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story of a trio of incompetent 'experts' in the paranormal (Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis), who set up as ghostbusters after they are canned from their college sinecures, is less cynical a construction than it sounds.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This movie is an exception to the general rule that big special effects can wreck a comedy.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

There is more attention to special effects than to humor.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (25)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If for nothing else, deserves to be fondly remembered for bringing the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man into the world.

March 1, 2014 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm
LarsenOnFilm

An exciting and fun genre hybrid rarely mastered.

October 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

Director Ivan Reitman keeps the Aykroyd-Ramis screenplay zipping right along, creating something like Abbott & Costello Meet the Exorcist. Aykroyd and Murray make the perfect summer tonic for raising spirits.

July 29, 2013 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

In both the funny and the (mildly) scary moments, the cast does itself proud.

May 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor

"Ghostbusters" is a fun romp with a couple of comedy's greatest stars at the top of their game.

February 26, 2012 Full Review Source: MediaMikes
MediaMikes

As funny, spooky and marvellous as ever.

November 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Digital Spy
Digital Spy

It provoked huge box-office success in 1984 and is still director Ivan Reitman's defining movie.

October 31, 2011 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

The leads' chemistry is almost, well, spooky, Dan Aykroyd's nerdy enthusiasm rubbing deliciously against a persona-perfecting turn from Bill Murray - and there's even the odd surprise.

October 28, 2011 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

The often dazzling, special effects-driven slapstick tends to overshadow the fact that there are some slyer, more sophisticated laughs on offer in this blockbusting family comedy.

October 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

What's not to like?

October 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

Paranormal fun for tweens and up; some scares.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A comedy first, a horror film second... but a successful enough hybrid of those things that it would be wrong to try to limit it generically.

August 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Antagony & Ecstasy
Antagony & Ecstasy

The movie's tongue-in-cheek (and pre-subprime) satire of surging capitalist hubris is scarcely mitigated by the necessary fairy-tale ending.

August 5, 2009 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Stuffed with wisecracking, punning and essential deadpanning care of the film's most notable star performer Murray (who has such delivery down as a fine art), the film also packs in a half-decent narrative.

May 6, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

See website for more details.

March 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Screen It!
Screen It!

Fantastic all the way

March 2, 2008

With his deadpan delivery and snide quips, Murray more than holds his own amid the myriad state-of-the-art special effects.

May 30, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Audience Reviews for Ghostbusters

There are a select number of films held in such high regard in popular culture that to even faintly criticise them is considered heresy. Like Star Wars before it, Ghostbusters is a film which seemingly everyone is aware of, and even if you've never seen it you can probably hum the theme tune or quote the script. It's a seemingly iconic work, a high-water mark of American comedy that anyone with a sense of humour should enjoy.

What such an attitude fails to acknowledge is that film taste is inherently subjective, particularly when it comes to comedy. Regular readers of my reviews will already have a fair idea of what my tastes are: I like my comedies on the darker side, preferably surreal but crucially substantial - I like comedies that are about something. It may be, therefore, that I am predisposed to dislike Ghostbusters, being as it is a shallow, high-concept star vehicle. Or, just as probably, it may be that it just isn't funny.

There are a couple of aspects to Ghostbusters which we are able to admire regardless of how funny we find it. Despite being essentially a vehicle for former Saturday Night Live stars, the film is a reasonably literate affair, at least as far as the horror genre is concerned. There are big references throughout to the work of H. P. Lovecraft, including the isolated, academic nature of its protagonists, the slimy nature of the ghosts (such as Slimer himself), and of course the involvement of ancient gods who are at best indifferent towards humanity.

The film also deserves credit for being a mainstream blockbuster which has intelligent people as its protagonists. We've become used to our summer blockbusters being populated by characters who are complete idiots, bound up in plots which can only make sense if everyone involved is either stupid or doesn't care. Ghostbusters, one of the biggest blockbusters in history, bucks this trend: it unashamedly celebrates the cleverness of its male leads, giving us characters who succeed through brains rather than good looks or good luck.

Unfortunately, this bit of praise also brings us onto one of the big problems with Ghostbusters, namely the characters. While Dan Aykroyd and the late Harold Ramis made their heroes intellectual in nature, each of the three main parts are severely underwritten. Bill Murray's character seems driven only by a need to be sarcastic or seductive, while Aykroyd and Ramis do little else but stand around explaining the plot. No matter how many dry one-liners Murray gets through, the characters don't feel like real people.

The best way to illustrate this point is the words of Stephen Fry, when he was interviewed about the difference between British and American comedy. Fry argued that the archetypal American comic hero is a wise-cracker who is above those around him, embodiying the belief in American culture that everything can be bettered or improved. While British comic heroes are distinctive characters (and expressions of failure), American comic heroes are "not characters at all, they're just brilliant repositories of fantastic, killer one-liners."

Aykroyd, Murray and Ramis are all essentially playing to type, and there is no real chemistry between them because the types are constantly in awkward competition with each other. Murray's deadpan wise-cracking doesn't gel with Aykroyd's fast-talking or Ramis' forgettable geekiness. The same goes for Rick Moranis, whose socially incompetent accountant is excrutiating: it's played so broadly and unrelentingly that it always grates against the story. Even Sigourney Weaver is underused, with her character existing only to get hit on, first by Murray and then by Zuul.

Of course, it is possible for a film with stereotypical characters to still fire if its script has a strong enough story. The James Bond series is absolutely littered with archetypal characters, with the best films in the series having a good enough story to make them not matter so much. But despite its faithful nods to Lovecraft and its intellectual protagonists, Ghostbusters still manages to make the very least of its material.

The plot of Ghostbusters essentially takes the first half of the 1946 film Spook Busters and then slowly unravels it through a steadily increasing parade of special effects. Like the Beverly Hills Cop series, the story is not so much a story as it is a series of set-pieces; they are linked together loosely by montage, but you could still watch them in any order with the same impact. As for the dialogue, 80% of it is meaningless jargon designed to big up the characters' intelligence. But simply saying a lot of long words doesn't make a character smart, giving us even less reason to bond with them.

As with Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters could have had a much more complex and satisfying story if a little bit more effort had been put into it. The idea of man-made structures being engineered to harness the power of gods is a nice, pulpy idea; it's only a hop, skip and jump from the work of Erich von Däniken, whose writings were a big influence on the fourth Indiana Jones film. When allied to Lovecraft, this could have formed an interesting premise, with a team of scientists seeking to stop an individual driven mad by knowledge of ancient demons, and trying to unleash those demons onto the human world.

Part of the reason Ghostbusters doesn't work on a story level is its indecisive pussy-footing around spiritual questions. Any film or story in which ghosts are involved immediately raises questions about the afterlife - what ghosts are, how they function, where the boundaries lie between different worlds and so forth. But the film either fails to acknowledge such questions or provides contradicting answers; for instance, it accepts the existence of extremely powerful gods, but also believes that humans can conquer said gods with little more than beams of energy. It's another indication of the laziness present in the script, as the film squanders another interesting angle for the sake of a simple, easy-to-follow climax.

The special effects in Ghostbusters were provided by Boss Films, who later provided the effects for John Carpenter's cult disaster Big Trouble in Little China. In both films they dominate the visual landscape rather than adding to the physical sets, to the point where the characters become swamped by them. The big special effects ending, involving the gateway on top of the skyscraper, is a big anticlimax because it doesn't feel physical or like a natural continuation of the narrative. Even the physical effects, such as Zuul's appearance in the fridge, aren't that convincing even for the day.

Then we come to the problems with the film's direction. Ghostbusters looks and sounds perfectly okay, boasting decent cinematography from László Kovács (Easy Rider) and a score from John Landis' long-time collaborator Elmer Bernstein. But as far as its direction goes, Ivan Reitman is every bit at sea with his cast here as Martin Brest was on Beverly Hills Cop. In both cases the camerawork is overly basic and the editing is slack, as though Reitman just left the cameras on until someone said something funny.

In a further comparison with Beverly Hills Cop, there are a number of tonal problems with Ghostbusters. The film doesn't have the uncomfortable homophobic undercurrent running through it like Brest's film, but it doesn't have a great deal of respect for its female characters. The scene where Zuul captures Dana, in which hands come through the chair and grab her, is uncomfortably rapey, and the levitation scene (which rips off The Exorcist) is just another excuse to put the character in needlessly sexual situations. Blockbusters are often accused of being built around the needs of teenage boys, and looking at scenes like the latter, it's not hard to see why.

Ghostbusters is a deeply unfunny comedy which deserves little if any of its glowing reputation. Despite a number of dry laughs and admirable decisions, it squanders most of its potential in favour of cheap stereotypes, sex jokes and special effects, none of which engage to any satisfying degree. It's not the low point in the careers of any of its stars (which is very telling of each of them), but it hasn't stood the test of time anything like as well as we've been led to believe. In short, it's a massive disappointment that's even bigger than the Twinkie.
April 9, 2014
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

This is easily one of the most popular films ever made. And thankfully, it's also actually an excellent piece of work in its own right.

What we get here is the story of some "paranormal investigators" who, after getting kicked out of Columbia University and having their grant revoked, strike out on their own using homemade equipment to capture ghosts, ghouls, and all manner of otherworldly spectres that start plaguing NYC.

First off, this is just an amazingly clever, creative, and fun premise. The ghost effects are charming, sometimes rather creepy, and altogether a sign of imagination at work. More importantly, this film is quite witty, funny, quotable, and memorable. The characters are what really make this work. As the Ghostbusters, we get Harold Ramis, Bill murray, and Dan Aykroyd as the original trio, and Ernie Hudson as a new recruit, taken on to help curb the increasing level of paranormal threats. All of these guys are in top form here, and they really have excellent chemistry. I like them all, and for different reasons, but as a kid, Winston (Ernie Hudson) was my favorite. But then again, you can't go wrong with Ray's (Aykroyd) bubbly enthusiasm, Peter's (Murray) dry sarcasm, or Egon's(Ramis) nerdy technobabble.

As their first client and Peter's would-be girlfriend Dana, Sigourney Weaver is incredibly gorgeous, and quite solid. Rick Moranis is a delight as Dana's doofy accountant neighbor Louis, and Annie Potts is a scream as Ghostbusters secretary Janine. And, while the film could have worked just fine with ghostly baddies, we also get William Atherton as an antagonistic EPA agent.

Trying to pick a favorite line or moment is just way too hard for me. The film is loaded with lots of little and big moments that are just comic and cinematic gold. The script by Ramis and Aykroyd is razor sharp and creative. It wasn't until I was an adult that I was able to catch all the jokes that flew over my head as a kid. Even then, I still notice new things each time I watch it. Ivan Reitman's direction is light, yet assured, finding a good balance between plot and character moments. The music by Elmer Bernstein is diverse, but well blended, fun, and like the movie itself, quite memorable.

This has been one of my all time favorites for basically most of my life. Even if it wasn't, I'd still probably be a big fan just because of how unique and enjoyable this all is. Bottom line: it's not only a must see, but it's a one that bears endless repeat viewings.
November 1, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A fun-filled comedic adventure that's a true defining film of it's decade. Ghostbusters' combustion of laughter, special effects and a tactical cast makes it enjoyable and entertaining for all audiences. 4/5
May 13, 2013
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

A total classic and with good reason. MVP Bill Murray. Full review later.
April 20, 2013
TomBowler
Thomas Bowler

Super Reviewer

    1. Egon Spengler: Don't cross the streams!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (4 months ago)
    1. Peter Venkman: Back off, man! I'm a scientist!
    – Submitted by Matthew D (4 months ago)
    1. Peter Venkman: Let's show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown.
    – Submitted by Swayamdeep S (14 months ago)
    1. Peter Venkman: Back of man, I'm a Scientist.
    – Submitted by Crispin T (14 months ago)
    1. Peter Venkman: Alice, I'm going to ask you a couple of standard questions, ok? Have you or any of your family ever been diagnosed Schizophrenic? Mentally incompetent?
    2. Librarian: My uncle thought he was St. Jerome.
    3. Peter Venkman: I'd call that a big yes.
    – Submitted by Jarryd R (15 months ago)
    1. Winston Zeddmore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say 'YES'!
    – Submitted by Allison V (16 months ago)
View all quotes (62)

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